There's no doubt about it: some bad news comes in combination, compounding the issue at hand. That's part of the background of the phrase, "when it rains, it pours." Unfortunately, when experiencing an unusual crisis, you may also run into other, cascading difficulties.
As your insider into property management, Virginia Beach investors, we know that the last few months have been trying for rental property owners. Some of the key draws for renters to live in the Virginia Beach area have been effectively limited or completely shut down. You likely found yourself with more than one renter either furloughed or suddenly jobless.
Virginia's shutdown, being longer than that of many other states, also had emergency moratoriums against evictions that offered additional coverage to those not sheltered by the CARES Act. Even in a crisis, there will always be those renters who seek to take advantage of these kinds of protections to avoid upholding their end of the lease agreement. In this situation, property owners found themselves with a sudden dilemma: they had repeated lease violations, but no way to handle them through eviction.
Your screening process should always be your first line of defense to prevent issues like these in the first place. If it comes down to an issue of unpaid rent, there are plenty of alternatives to eviction that investors should be trying first. However, what if it's a matter of your resident being a danger to others or causing extensive damage to your property? In these situations, when the courts are shut down, or cases are moving at a snail's pace, it's a time to be proactive and prepared for when you have your day in court.
Foreword: While we are experts in property management, Virginia Beach investors should be aware that this blog is not intended to replace in-person legal counsel. If you need live support, get in touch with us!
When Evictions Are on Hold
One of the first things to accept is that uncertainty like our current crisis may keep you from evicting on the timeframe you'd prefer. It's absolutely a frustration when your renters are consistently violating your lease, but it's better to let go of what you can't control and put your energy to use elsewhere.
Communicate with your renters (through something you can record, like email), as honestly as possible. It may be possible to convince your renters to move on and break their lease early with options like "Cash for Keys" if you can't come to any other solution. While not every renter will look into other housing options immediately, some will absolutely consider it.
The important thing to understand with this option is to set guidelines, such as your renters returning the property in working and rentable condition to get the cash payout, and then putting these guidelines into some kind of documentable, concrete form. This means your note-taking skills need to be next level.
Document All Interactions With Your Renters
Some forms of notice are required to proceed with eviction when bans are lifted, so you want to be very thorough in how you document any encounters with your renters.
If a resident tells you things like a particular date when they will pay rent, but they do not do so, that is information you can keep for your records so that eviction court is more likely to go in your favor. Trying to find a payment plan that works for your renters who are behind on rent due to COVID-19 should be your first step, but if they are committing to a process and cannot follow through, they are definitely breaking their lease with you. Your careful notes and clear documentation help you avoid a back-and-forth over the particulars of your case, which can waste time.
Send Clear Notices
Of course, the courts will allow legal evictions again when the danger of the current Coronavirus pandemic passes. When this date is announced, or possibly before then, you can make clear to your renters through the proper channels that you intend to pursue eviction when it is legally possible to do so.
Not only is this the kind of heads-up that your renters deserve to receive, but it also helps you move forward in the process faster if your residents opt to continue occupying the rental property even after you've advised them of your intentions. It also contributes to your growing pile of documentation that you are proceeding forward as you should.
When Able to Do So, Evict
If you've said that you will proceed with the eviction when it becomes legal, it's important to follow through. No one wants to turn someone out, even if they've been violating the lease agreement, but you don't want a reputation as someone who threatens eviction without following through.
Ultimately, not following through on your word can undermine your efforts with renters to get back on track with payments if they have a setback. They may believe that they can stay indefinitely, only occasionally paying rent, because they think you won't proceed with an eviction. Your word is important, so do what you have to do to stick to it.
Your Property Manager Is Your Ally
Many property owners are understandably stressed right now by the prospect of evictions and having to find new renters to fill vacancies. Remember, you can turn to trustworthy property management, Virginia Beach investors! Expert property managers are experienced in eviction law by trade and can help you navigate the process wisely. They'll have a sense of when to work with a renter versus when they are clearly refusing to abide by the terms of your contract.
Evictions are a tough part of being an investor, but they're not always the only option! We want to reinforce that, if possible, you should be working with your renters on issues like past-due rent before pursuing an eviction during this time. Download our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook to get more tips!